So, I was standing outside where I work, talking to a male friend. He’d seen my piece, the one I wrote here recently about the sanitisation of sexual assaults and rape after a string of offences of that nature in Stroud.
He told me that the way I talked about going out running and getting stared at and how, as women, we have to figure out if that’s a threat or not, had made him stop and think. The way men can, pretty much, go out about their day and think nothing of it, not plan their route or tell someone where they are going.
Since that article came out, a lot of things have happened fast. Not only have so many people contacted me, but on 9 August, Rodborough Parish Council instigated a community meeting where the police came to talk about the assaults.
I was with the amazing women around me who I’ve been in touch with about all that’s going on, I thought I was ready. But I wasn’t prepared for how real hearing the police talk about the offences. The local areas where the assaults happened, how these women went about their business as we all do, yet men hurt them. This was real, I remember thinking that it was real and guttural and happening now. I wanted to wrap my arms around those women, around all women and girls, pull us all in tight and, for a second, not move.
Brave women shared multiple stories at the talk about their experiences, and I cried. I didn’t expect it, and I couldn’t help it. Because here we all were, in 2022, and these women of all ages talking, sharing, as we have done over countless decades, and still now, nothing had changed.
That’s why it was good to hear the police being honest. They didn’t have all the answers, and while they were actively initiating help, they admitted they had made mistakes, and though hard to hear, it’s a step forward because it means the conversation is open to making things better.
And we need that conversation now, it’s the only way we’re going to start changing things. To all the men who’ve come up to me to say they didn’t realise how it was for women, to the men who read my article and who are reading this now – please talk to each other. It’s over to you. We need you to take responsibility and speak openly about how male violence can end.
None of us has all the answers, and the only way we are going to get them and start to turn the tide of what’s happening is by talking and listening. Because this is not about men vs women, us vs them, police vs public – this is truly all of us together, non-binary, collectively saying enough. This is about demanding real change and not budging until we get it.
I’ve channelled all my emotion on this into now organising a protest march. Since the last article, I’ve co-founded with the outstanding Sydney-Anne McAllister of FemLegal, a protest-lobby group to end sexual violence called Enough’s Enough.
And so, at 11 am on Saturday 17 September, there will be a peaceful protest march starting outside the green by the Lock Keeper’s cafe in Wallbridge, Stroud.
It’s a chance for us to have a voice, to be seen and heard, not hide. A chance for everyone to come and say enough’s enough. We don’t have all the answers yet, but we do have a voice. Let’s use it.
Find out more on the protest march here https://www.facebook.com/events/571399717798193/?notif_id=1660084615057068¬if_t=event_host_create_linked_group&ref=notif
Safe Space is a new community initiative of businesses that provides a safe and secure place for women to go to if they are being followed or feel threatened. Find out more here www.safespacesscheme.org